Story by AFP
China reported a fresh spike in coronavirus infections on March 1, as President Donald Trump urged calm after the first death on US soil and Australia registered its first fatality.
The virus has spread to more than 60 countries around the globe, prompting the World Health Organisation to raise its risk assessment to its highest level.
Worldwide, nearly 3,000 people have been killed and about 87,000 infected since the virus was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
China on Sunday reported 573 new infections, the highest figure in a week after a dip. All but three of them were in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.
Another 11 lives lost in Iran, bringing the country’s overall toll to 54
While the numbers in China are still far lower than the huge daily increases reported during the first two weeks of February, COVID-19 has spread rapidly across borders, with South Korea, Italy and Iran emerging as hotspots.
South Korea, which has the most infected people outside China, reported 586 new cases on Sunday, bringing its total to 3,736.
Australia reported the first death on its soil — a 78-year-old man who had been evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
The novel coronavirus claimed another 11 lives in Iran, bringing the country’s overall toll to 54, according to official figures released on Sunday that showed the virus was spreading more rapidly.
“Eleven people lost their lives” in the past 24 hours, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference, adding that testing across the country showed there were 385 new cases.
It was the highest number of new cases for the third successive day in the Islamic republic, which now has 978 confirmed infections.
Global attention turned to the United States on Saturday after the first fatality on American soil was confirmed.
“We’ve taken the most aggressive actions to confront the coronavirus,” President Trump said at a hastily arranged White House press conference. “Our country is prepared for any circumstance… There is no reason to panic at all.”
The fatality occurred in Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, a city of more than 700,000 people, health officials said.
The victim was in his 50s and had “underlying health conditions”, officials added, as they also announced a possible outbreak in a Washington state nursing home, where a health worker and a resident in her 70s were both confirmed sick with the virus.
France cancelled gatherings of 5,000 people or more after 16 new cases were confirmed there on Saturday, bringing the country’s total to 73. Sunday’s Paris half-marathon and an agricultural symposium were among the events axed.
Italy, the hotspot of the outbreak in Europe, saw a jump in new cases on Saturday, with its number of infections exceeding 1,000 and the death toll jumping by eight to 29.
In recent days, the epidemic has spread also to sub-Saharan Africa, while Qatar, Ecuador, Luxembourg and Ireland all confirmed their first cases on Saturday.